Life in a Bind – BPD and me

Borderline Personality Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and my therapy journey. Listed in Top Ten Resources for BPD in 2016 by goodtherapy.org. I write for welldoing.org and for Muse Magazine Australia, under the name Clara Bridges.

My borderline mind

27 Comments

For forty-eight hours after my last therapy session, I felt utterly broken. I cried then slept. I slept then cried. Amongst the battle of words going on inside my head, a few sentences crystallised to describe how I was feeling and what I was realising .

perfect dilemma

It was not an entirely new thought – but it had never been so precisely articulated. The realisation was devastating and the implication radical. At a (mostly) unconscious level, these sentences have defined – continue to define – how I think, act, react, and feel.  Trying to move away from that will involve nothing less than a complete realignment of my very way of being.

How many can relate to precisely these emotions? How can thoughts that are so ‘unrealistic’ (let’s not use the word ‘wrong’, for fear of self-invalidation, even though that is how it feels) seem so utterly persuasive and legitimate?

And how – how – can we wrest ourselves from this way of thinking, without it simply feeling like compromising on life, sacrificing ourselves, and burying our desires?

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27 thoughts on “My borderline mind

  1. The first sentence isn’t too troublesome, I think. The second one, though, seems to involve handing the definition of your life to someone else.

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    • Thank you for reading and commenting. Yes, there is definitely a sense in which I want the ‘burden’ of responsibility, decision making, and life in general to be ‘carried’ by someone else, because it feels too heavy. And yet, I hate being controlled, or feeling helpless! And yes, there is also a sense in which it feels ‘better’ to be defined by someone else, but _only_ in certain circumstances. And those circumstances are where the ‘someone else’ is someone I’m idealising, so in a way I think I’m striving to be a small part of a merged ‘perfection’, so that I am released from whatever ‘imperfection’ I inhabit…I think it’s going to take a while to work through and understand this all, and even longer to see some small changes in ways of thinking and behaving, so I’m glad I’m in open-ended therapy! Incidentally, I read an interesting article in the New York Times online, by a therapist, called ‘The Accidents of Psychoanalysis’, and it made me think of you, as it contained the following line: “Even profound self-reflection seems to have little relation to actual change.” It reminded me of your earlier comments on my parenting post, and it was interesting to hear the same observation from a practising psychotherapist….

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      • Thank you for this reply. It seems to me you are unusually intelligent, and this comes out in your ability to analyse. I am also aware that being intelligent may not make your life any easier. My daughter has this problem, though she deals with it much less well than you do. She now lives in one room in a flat and has left neither for several months. Anyway, I think if you gather together your writings and further insights you have the making of book.

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      • Thank you so much Rod, for your amazing words. I’m not sure how old your daughter is, but I do think it takes time (perhaps being a bit older?) and therapy (or at least something similar) to gain more insight. It’s not a solitary task, and sadly, it does sound as though your daughter is facing a very solitary task – I am so sorry for her situation.
        I am enormously humbled and it’s a big boost to self-confidence to hear that you think my writings might form the basis for a book. A couple of people have mentioned something similar and it’s just good to know that you think it might be possible, that what’s there would be ‘good enough’ or ‘interesting enough’ even if it never actually happens! I had always hoped I might be able to write well, and I would love it to happen – perhaps one day, when life is a bit less hectic 🙂 Not sure whether a book can simply be a collection of entries, ordered in a suitable way, or whether it needs to be a proper narrative, using some of the posts as a basis. Also not sure whether blog posts are ‘publishable’ given they are already ‘published’ in some way! You can tell you’ve inspired me to start thinking about it…. 🙂 Thank you again for reading and commenting, it means a lot to me be able to reach those who support others with BPD, and it’s wonderful to feel supported by them as well…

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  2. This is exactly what has been going through my mind over the past couple of weeks. Unfortunately it has become a downward spiral and I’m finding it hard to get out of it. Hope you feel better about things soon. ☺️

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    • Thank you so much for reading and commenting and I’m glad this resonated with you, although I’m so sorry to hear it has become a downward spiral. I really hope you are starting to climb up out of that, or that you will do soon – I’m thinking of you. I’ve had two therapy sessions since then, and it’s amazing how much material has come out of that very difficult ten minutes that led to my post. I’m nowhere near being able to process it all, but there have been a wonderful few therapeutic moments coming out of that place I was in, and I’m very thankful for that. But there have also been hard, reality-checking moments, moments of being confronted with the un-reality of my fantasies and the boundaries of therapy, however much I might resist them, and those moments were hard to swallow. I still have no idea how to shift my mindset and learn to see life not always through those sentences I posted – but now I think I’m more aware that that is the filter that everything goes through, and that awareness will have an effect, I think….thank you again for reading, it’s really good to hear from you, and do keep in touch…

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  3. I imagine feeling and thinking on that level is pretty intense. Maybe if it was possible to become that obsessed with letting go, giving in to the unknown and learning to love yourself for conquering those moments. Maybe that would become the desire. 🙂

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    • Thank you so much for reading and for commenting. Yes, it would be good if that could become the desire 🙂 Learning to love myself would be a big step forward, as opposed to constantly criticising myself and wondering why anyone would be interested in me. My therapist did say something along the lines of me having trouble letting go, and that is certainly true – I’m simply not sure how to go about it, but I’m hoping that is one of the many things that therapy can help me with….

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  4. I like this post. Keep working and processing it.

    Yu/stan/ kema

    On Mon, Dec 8, 2014 at 5:19 PM, Life in a Bind – BPD and me wrote:

    > Life in a Bind – BPD and me posted: “For forty-eight hours after my > last therapy session, I felt utterly broken. I cried then slept. I slept > then cried. Amongst the battle of words going on inside my head, a few > sentences crystallised to describe how I was feeling and what I was > realising . “

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  5. Thank you for this–It is a perfect expression of something deep I know I feel.
    This may be misguided enthusiasm for a book I like, but I am currently reading Alice Miller’s, The Drama of Being a Child. It seems pertinent, and I’m hoping it will help me to answer the questions you give here.

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    • Thank you – I am so glad it helps and expresses something you feel as well. It’s odd when you have a vague sense you feel a particular way, but then your mind offers you up a sentence that just seems to encapsulate it and reveal it at the same time. Thank you so much for mentioning the Alice Miller book – I read some reviews on Amazon and have now ordered it as it sounds fantastic. And if anything can help to answer those questions, I really need to read it. I need to find a way to work through the frustration and the pain that those feelings bring. I really hope you find the same as well, and if you do receive some answers, it would be wonderful to hear your thoughts, and how you work those out in practice…Take care and thank you so much for commenting…

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  6. Also, please share that picture with the caption where you can–It is such a beautiful, clear expression of a sentiment I have rarely read but that I feel absolutely.

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    • Thank you so much 🙂 I will try, but things are so incredibly hectic I’m not great at keeping up with social media! I’m on twitter, but haven’t managed to get my Life in a Bind Facebook or Pinterest off the ground. If you have anywhere you can share it through, and if you don’t mind me using your email address, let me know and I can email you a version of the picture 🙂 Thank you again….

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  7. I’m not quite sure what to say about this one. My problem (Is it a problem?) is that I don’t seem to feel those emotions. Actually, reading them kinda makes me feel uncomfortable… or is it vulnerable? I’ve been in a chronic isolation/avoidance mode for such a long time, I almost forget what it’s like to wish for that connection… perhaps this is also reflected in my relationship with my therapist… mmm … this is something that will come up in my own therapy, for sure… very thought provoking… but sorry I have no wise words. I was intrigued as to why you feel you need to move away from those desires? And why are they so unrealistic?

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    • Thank you so much for your comment Cat. I think our therapists might say that if something makes us uncomfortable, it’s worth looking at why 🙂 I think those emotions definitely put one in a very vulnerable position, and I think that’s why, in the words I wrote, the desire to be fully merged is only directed towards those who ‘perfectly’ love and understand (and by implication, will not abuse that vulnerability or hurt me). From what I’m starting to learn about therapy, I think it would very unlikely that a significant part of our make-up/experience was _not_ reflected in our relationships with our therapists, so I guess it makes sense to me that perhaps, as you experience other relationships (in terms of isolating), so you experience your relationship with your therapist. No need for wise words – simply exchanging words and thoughts is wonderful and thought-provoking and extremely helpful in itself! As for why I feel the need to move away from those desires….lots of reasons I guess…I’ve been told many times by professionals that there is no such thing as ‘perfect care’, but I’m not sure I yet believe it. I think those desires are part of a wish to be perfectly understood and cared for, and I believe I need to accept that everyone is human, but also I need to understand and care for myself as well. I feel that those desires express my wish to be fully merged with another and to lose my identity (even more than it is already ‘lost’!) rather than accepting that people are separate, that there are boundaries, and that I need to try and figure out who I am , independently of others. I was helped by a comment from Rod, that the first part of my sentence sounded pretty unproblematic, and I think lots of people may think it. We all have an ideal – I guess the question is to what extent we cause ourselves, and others, pain, when we do not feel perfectly understood, or perfectly cared for, and when others assert their separateness from us. And I guess the question is also to what extent those desires are all-consuming and colour everything else. I think my difficulty is that they are filter through which everything goes (certainly every interaction with my therapist) and yet I didn’t even realise there was a filter in place. When it comes to my relationship with my therapist, it means that I have great difficulty coping with the professional boundaries of the relationship and accepting those boundaries without feeling hurt. As my therapist said, it’s absolutely fine to have fantasies, but my fantasies and what I can’t have, feels more real than what I _can_ have, and I hurt myself in the process….sorry, this has ended up very long and rambling, but I think that’s a function of the fact that the last four or so therapy sessions have been SO huge and I’m still processing them (hopefully it will all come out in a post around or soon after Christmas!). She has really challenged me – it has felt brutal sometimes, but I think it’s been one of those break-through moments that I’m so in awe of and afraid of, that I’m letting it just hover around the outskirts of my consciousness, visiting it a little at a time…..

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      • Sorry, it’s taken me so long to reply, I imagine you’ve probably gone through some of this in therapy. I’ve been thinking a lot about this post. I think, what makes me so uncomfortable is my lack of faith that that perfect love/security truly exists, although I do believe that something near it can develop between two people. As your follower Rod said, there’s also the other side to this, where people continually fall short of our high (unrealistic?) expectations. Maybe we need to learn to understand and care for ourselves before other people are able to feel the same way about us.

        Realising the filter is a huge step and one I expect you will build on as therapy progresses.

        Accepting boundaries is a big one for me too. I’ve been dealing with a sort of abandonment issue over having no therapy over the holiday period. My adult mind is pleased, I need the break, but my inner child feels a great sense of loss.

        I love those breakthrough moments you mention. I find my own follows a pattern… first despair and chaos, then a kind of dream like state for a few days and, at some point in there, awareness seeps through my brain. I call them my mini-enlightenments. They are a gauge to our progress and make me feel so good. It sounds like your own therapy is proceeding very well 😉

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      • Hi Cat, I’m so so sorry it’s taken me an age to respond. I really should just approve comments and then reply later! Once again, I find the difference between our perspectives really interesting 🙂 Is yours a lack of faith, or a greater realism and acceptance of what is? Or does the answer actually depend on who we’re asking the question of? Maybe it doesn’t matter what it is, or isn’t (faith, idealism), but what it means for us and each of our attitudes, and how it affects each of our lives and our actions. If your ‘lack of faith’ makes you uncomfortable, perhaps the key question is why, and similarly, if my desire for perfection is causing me problems, I need to look at that….The psychiatrist who diagnosed me offered only this by way of ‘guidance’ or ‘advice’ – “you need to accept there is no such thing as perfect care”. But as you believe, maybe something close (but still ‘grounded in reality’?) can still come to be?
        Yes, I think we need to learn to understand and care for ourselves. I must admit though, I find it difficult to accept the notion that if we don’t love ourselves, no one else will either. I hear come across that view a great deal, including within the mental health community. But a big part of me resists and wants to cry out ‘but the problem is I can’t love myself, and need someone else to do it first, to show me that I’m worthy of that love’. If there is a ‘pre-condition’ to someone else’s love (namely, that I love myself first), is it really love? And if it’s not a ‘pre-condition’, but just the fact that unless I love myself I’m simply not ‘attractive’ or ‘loveable’, then am I _really_ loveable just as I am? How does one solve that dilemma? I don’t know…..I know that eventually, we’re supposed to be able to self-validate – but I thought the idea of therapy was that we were taught, and that we learnt by example and by being validated. Someone has to love us first – surely? (These are mostly questions to myself by the way, and stream-of-consciousness type thoughts – not meant as challenges or questions necessarily needing answers!)

        I completely understand the abandonment feelings caused by any kind of therapy gap. I can’t seem to go into a gap without them. I tried to moderate the effect in my last session but talking about something I didn’t think would be too ‘difficult’, but I still came away with exactly those feelings. My heart goes out to you – I know that sense of loss and how much it hurts. I think that knowing and accepting the difference between adult and child viewpoints is a good thing, though. I remember back at the end of July when I was facing a 6 week break, I was so insistent to my therapist that I completely understood that therapists need holidays and it wasn’t a problem and it would be completely unreasonable to think otherwise. She said that the adult might believe that, but the child could still be angry and upset that it was happening. I couldn’t accept that difference then, but going into the Christmas break I was able to say that I hated the idea, that I didn’t want the break to happen. How do you ‘keep in touch with therapy’ during a break? Do you read about therapy, think about it, or do you instead try and put it out of your mind?
        Yes, I love mini-enlightenments too, and they do seem to follow the pattern you describe. How do you cope with the aftermath though? The last couple of sessions before the break and after the ‘breakthrough moment’ were horribly uncomfortable -it felt as though there was a huge amount of silence, I didn’t know what to talk about, I felt disappointed and as if I _was_ a disappointment. My therapist did say it might feel difficult because of the contrast with the previous sessions, and I don’t know how much of it was a difference in me, a difference in her, a difference in content….I was just wondering if you had any ‘tips’, other than I guess, remembering that there are ups, downs, flat parts etc in therapy, and that doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong….
        I hope the last few days have gone okay for you and that the upcoming New Year is not too difficult. I also really wanted to apologise as I know there is still an outstanding question in one of your comments I have not been able to reply to yet, but I still fully intend to, I’m so sorry….take care x

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      • This perfect love/care scenario is something that will continue to raise its head during our therapy. It’s an interesting question, “is it a lack of faith or realism?” I like what you said about if it causes us to feel uncomfortable, then it’s worth exploring.
        Something makes me uncomfortable when a mental health worker says, “You need to…”, even if they are right about there being no such thing as perfect love.
        I totally hear your frustration over this idea of loving ourselves before someone else can love us. However, I have experienced this perfect love scenario, but it didn’t work because I wasn’t able to love myself. We were together 9 years and he really was a gem in every way; good-looking, athletic, he was a Physicist (a good salary and the main breadwinner) and the friendliest bloke you could ever meet. He stood by me through thick and thin, and appeared to love me unconditionally. Rather than feel secure and happy with his love, I was not able to trust him in any way because I couldn’t love myself. In the end, I finished the relationship. If we can’t first love and respect ourselves, we will never be able to trust in another person loving or respecting what we find so abhorrent.
        What does help me to keep focus on therapy is blogging. Without it, I could never remember one week to the next, never mind a two week break.
        It’s interesting to hear other people’s experience of therapy. We seem to go through similar stages, albeit different content. That stage following those amazing mini-enlightenments and just before we move onto the next issue, can be a little challenging. I sometimes wonder if I am holding something back. I’m often asked, “How does it make you FEEL?” Maybe I should be exploring more of the feelings before I move onto the next problem.
        No problem about delays… totally understand… sorry for the mini-post 😉

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  10. Whoooaaa googling “a less than perfect understanding” (because I’m editing a doc and feel almost certain it should, technically, be written as “a less-than-perfect understanding”) and this post comes up very high on the list! A reminder that I miss you and your writing! Hope you’re doing well xxxxxx

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    • Hi Cat, I’ve missed you 🙂 How are things going? Up for a gmail chat any time soon? Glad to hear the post came up high in the search, but I think that was more a case of your expert googling and appropriately precise search term! 😉 It’s always lovely to hear from you, and I often wonder how things are going for you, and hoping you’re keeping well. Would love to read some more of your writing too (hint hint 😉 ). Take care xxxxx

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  11. Pingback: Accepting otherness and separateness | Life in a Bind - BPD and me

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